Govt offering help for seniors who need urgent housing support: Desmond Lee

There are exemptions and other cases will be also assessed.

Sulaiman Daud | October 20, 2022, 06:41 PM

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There is support in place for seniors and others who have disposed of their private property and urgently need new housing, even with the recent implementation of measures to cool the property market, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament.

He was responding to questions from Members of Parliament Alex Yam and Nadia Samdin on the impact of cooling measures on the property sector, particularly how this affected private property owners who disposed of their property and urgently needed housing.

Initial round of cooling measures in December 2021

Lee said that the public housing market has been "buoyant" since the first quarter of 2020, and the increase in resale HDB flat prices during the last two years of the pandemic reflects a broad-based demand for housing offered by the previously low interest rate environment.

In December 2021, the government announced a package of measures intended to cool the private residential and HDB resale markets.

In the immediate quarters, following the implementation of these measures, the HDB Resale Price Index reflected a lower increase of 2.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, and 2.8 per cent in the second quarter, compared to 3.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

He added:

"The government has been watching the property market closely. Sustained property price increases, if left unchecked, could run ahead of our economic fundamentals, and increase the risk of a destabilising correction later, which will adversely impact many existing homeowners."

More measures

On Sep. 29, HDB announced more measures to encourage home buyers to exercise greater financial prudence when taking out home loans, as higher interest rates were expected over the medium term.

The second aim was to moderate demand in the HDB resale market.

One measure Lee cited was the 15-month wait-out period before current and former private residential property owners can buy a non-subsidised HDB resale flat (without taking CPF Housing Grant).

This new measure is intended to help prioritise access to affordable public housing for Singaporeans with urgent housing needs, such as first-time home buyers.

Some people who have disposed of their private property do need urgent support

Lee also addressed the issue of people looking for a new home after having recently disposed of their property, and urgently need housing support.

In June, a particular selective enbloc redevelopment scheme in Ang Mo Kio made headlines after those who had to sell their properties were having difficulties buying a replacement.

Lee said the government recognises that not all private property owners are in the same situation, and have different financial means.

The government introduced new measures to support this group, such as exempting seniors who are moving from a private property to a four-room or smaller resale HDB flat from the wait-out period, if both the senior and their spouse are 55 years old and above.

Lee said these seniors make up three in 10 of the private property owners who had bought resale HDB flats in the past three years.

Case-by-case for appeals

Also, regardless of age, those in need can approach HDB for assistance, and their situation will be assessed on a case by case basis. Lee revealed:

"HDB received some 650 appeals since the wait out period was introduced. 220 of these home seekers had obtained an option to purchase to buy an HDB resale flat before the wait-out period was put in place.

For these home seekers, HDB has exercised flexibility and waived the 15-month wait-out period for all of them.

A second group of home seekers are those who have not obtained an (Option to Purchase) to buy an HDB resale flat, but who may have committed to sell or have recently sold their existing private property."

Lee added that the government will consider the prevailing economic and market conditions, including the new measures, as they plan their half-yearly government land sales (GLS) supply for private housing.

Lee said, "We have already increased the supply of private housing on the confirmed list of the GLS programme by 75 per cent, from about 3,600 units in 2021 to around 6,300 units in 2022."

"We are prepared to increase the GLS supply further if needed."

Will this impact the market?

In a supplementary question, Yam asked if the exemption granted for seniors, particularly allowing them to buy four-room flats (or smaller), would inadvertently drive up prices for such properties.

Lee said that these seniors make up a small subset of private property owners moving into the HDB resale market.

He added that the government will continue to watch and monitor the property market carefully for the effects of the moves that have been made.

Top image from MCI YouTube.